cupidsbow (cupidsbow) wrote,


All the political dram and upheaval in America at the moment is reminding me of my trip there waaaaay back in 2000. An election was called in Australia while I was there, and I had to do a postal vote, and the whole situation really threw things into stark relief.

In Australia, voting is mandatory for all citizens, because democracy is considered a responsibility every citizen must share. If you don't vote, or conscientiously object to voting, you must pay a fine. Some people fall through the cracks in the system -- you need an address to be enrolled to vote, so the disenfranchised are often disenfranchised in this too. People also vote informally, by turning up on the day, but deliberately casting an invalid vote.

But overall, the majority of adults in Australia vote, and it's made very, very easy to do so. Schools become polling stations, volunteers staff them; your name is recorded, you go into a booth and privately cast your vote. There are also forms to allow you to vote if you're not in your home electorate.

It's so easy that I even manged to do it in America, despite being completely clueless. I'm still not sure how I did it, but I somehow found a nearby office, I went in, showed my passport, signed a form, and voted. The vote was sealed in a thick envelope, and an official mark put over the flap to hinder tampering, and it was sent off back to Oz.

Because I was asking questions about how I'd go about a postal vote, people would tell me about the American system too. I remember being appalled. It just seemed so weird to me that in the country renowned for being a democracy, it was so hard to vote. The idea that freedom from responsibility trumped democratic duty also just seemed so strange.

I understand the history behind it better now, but I still don't really understand why those choices were made.

In case this comes across as me bagging America and waxing rhapsodic over the idyll of Australian politics -- hahahaha, no. Australia is not perfect, by any means. Some people still get more say than others (for instance, city vs country is always a bone of contention). But even with the problems in the system, I prefer our way. Every yob and every snob ends up having a political opinion they must actually act on, and that makes a difference.

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Tags: politics
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